Inbox overload?

I am finding the comments on my recent blogs about lifestyling rather better than the articles I’m writing.

Take this caustic gem from Tim Simpson

Good Luck to Mr Pursaill, I hope he succeeds in obtaining his desire.

However, in regard to his opening remark…But those are usually based on letters which are easy to ignore and phone calls that are intrusive or salesy.

I don’t know what Mr Pursaill’s email box is like but mine is stuffed with emails I don’t want and the phone permanently on ‘Answer’ because of the ‘cold calling’ that is technically against the law. It has taken Lockdown to reduce the amount of wasted advertising arriving through my letter-box. It has always been the bane of any form of media communication but does at least give work to those who produce it.

Then there is this excellent question from Robert who has a British Steel pension and is in Tata’s workplace pension (managed by Aviva)

The default retirement age on my DC Workplace Pension is 65 (this is 2 years below my state pension age). I changed this to 70 years of age to keep my funds invested (medium risk) rather than them moving into lower risk which starts 10 years before my chosen retirement age. I can alter this quite easily if need be.

Question is, have I done the right thing? I would like to think so as I also have a DB Pension.

Out of the two poles you mention, are you in the ‘keep invested’ or ‘populist’ group?

I would put both comments in the “authentic” bucket as they are things that immediately make sense to me ( sentiment confirmed by experience). I too retire at 67 and (with the exception of Nest) have been in workplace pensions with arbitrary default retirement dates, usually aligned to some historic sense of when work stopped. Incidentally I also have a mortgage that runs out when I get to 65 because HSBC told me I couldn’t borrow in retirement! So- to Robert’s question, I think he is perfectly right to put his trust in Aviva’s default and sensible to adjust his retirement age to meet his personal circumstances, he has chosen to use his workplace pension to boost his retirement income in his seventies, which looks like being a source of leisure and pleasure. Having spent most of his life in steel, I wish him plenty of both!

Interestingly. Robert doesn’t seem to have been nudged into action by any mail or message. I hope he may have been influenced by his own research!

The power of dialogue

As I mentioned at the top of this blog, I am fascinated by the ratiocination of the comments that reach this blog (95% of comments are spammed).

Julius Pursaill also picked up of Richard’s point and his comment (which arrived before Tim’s) touches on the vexed question of messaging.

Richard is of course right to observe that many people’s carefully planned retirements get thrown off course by “events” over which they have no control. No investment strategy, no matter how well tailored, can fully anticipate the unexpected. But there is better risk management and there is worse. Members, if well supported, are arguably better placed to decide how they want to manage that uncertainty than fiduciaries who, within a MasterTrust, are often making a single decision for hundreds of thousands or millions of members.

Is it realistic to expect members to make decisions about risk and return? We think so. Far more is being asked of them in the world of pension freedoms.

The vast majority of members will need to decide how they want to take their retirement benefits without sophisticated financial advice. The industry supports them with guidance and with investment pathways that are hopefully better tailored to their individual circumstances.

Cushon aims to do something far les complex with tailored lifestyles. The success of the tailoring of course depends on how rich and effective the digital interaction is in negotiating complexity. And we recognise it still has to manage risk, so will never be perfect.

Richard’s observation about members understanding cash is well made. In integrating Tumelo functionality into the Cushon App we have learned that showing members their money is invested in Netflix, Apple and Tesco, by using logos they recognise and interact with every day, connects them emotionally to their investment strategy and they immediately understand this is different from cash.

We see building an emotional connection between members and their pension as crucial to engagement success and we use a variety of strategies to achieve this.

From there it’s a much smaller step to helping them decide whether increasing the return they can expect is more or less important to them than the peace of mind derived from reducing uncertainty.

We think a lot about the way members experience those interactions. If a member’s first laborious interaction with a modelling tool leads them to conclude they are doomed to an impoverished retirement, we haven’t helped them. Cushon aims for positive experiences at each interaction. We iterate and we learn. Our members’ journeys evolve.

It’s hard to demonstrate how Cushon tech works in a blog, because it’s success lies in its interactivity. Come and experience it – ask us for a demonstration!

There is a very fine line between being helpful and annoying with messaging. Most of the messaging I get is now from texts, followed by Facebook, followed by Linked in and Twitter . Email contains most of the heavy duty communications arriving laden with attachments. As Quietroom are forever pointing out, as soon as we use email we resort to formal protocols, few of us use email for pleasure.

Why are emails generally so dull?

The email – with its ridiculous trail of compliance nonsense in the footer, has become a sterile wasteland where no flowers bloom.

Which is why filters now spam  about 80% of my mail and why I trash 50% of the rest. Once spammed, never forgiven, my “trash” is littered with repeat emails from organizations I blithely consented to providing me with “email overload”. There is nothing malicious about filtering, I spam or trash most of my own content!

Email management is one thing, managing messaging another, Nest have the annoying habit of emailing me to tell me their is a message in my Nest inbox.

On the bright side, there are organisations whose messaging is so interesting and cheery , that I am happy to be bombarded.

Pension Bee is one, I am not a Pension Bee customer but I get a series of email from them which I always read and often act on.  Cushon might be another, maybe Julius should offer us a link to subscribe to Cushon’s assistance?

Trusted deliveries

I’m going into hospital for a small procedure next Monday and have to take some medicine over the weekend. I was worrying where I’d have to go to pick up the stuff only to get a text and email asking me to reply with my address.

Both messages were identifiable as emanating from a trustworthy source and were encrypted to a point where I was confident I would not be opening my door to a scammer. But this is now a consideration before opening mails from all but trusted sources. The ingenuity of scammers is such that “trusted sources” are getting fewer!

I hope that my medicine turns up today. Yesterday Freddie brought his flowers and took away last week’s flower box. I have not had to visit a Royal Mail of DHL parcel depot in these past 12 months, nothing is signed for and delivery people find a way to get parcels into our hall due to there always being someone in the block that’s in.

So paradoxically, we have found a way to receive physical things by mail or courier just as we are finding new ways not to receive digital things.

I am not saying that I don’t want digital- I do!  But my inbox is a graveyard for most of the stuff I’m sent, for the reasons given by Tim Simpson.

Filters for everything.

As Tim says – and Julius implies – what arrives in our physical or digital inboxes survives because of its fitness – an accelerated form of Darwinism which depends on the filters we trigger and our capacity to say no to subscriptions.

Organizations like Cushon don’t just need to get people signing up to their nudges, they need to stay relevant. One annoying mail can lead to a lifetime of spam and the horror of running a mailing system with “95% unread”.

The scammer is interested in avoiding filters , he need only land one knock out blow. But Cushon and others need to keep nudging over years and that means mailing  and messaging with some  consideration.

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W.B. Yeats.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to Inbox overload?

  1. Robert says:

    Taken from the blog……”So- to Robert’s question, I think he is perfectly right to put his trust in Aviva’s default and sensible to adjust his retirement age to meet his personal circumstances, he has chosen to use his workplace pension to boost his retirement income in his seventies, which looks like being a source of leisure and pleasure. Having spent most of his life in steel, I wish him plenty of both!”

    “Interestingly. Robert doesn’t seem to have been nudged into action by any mail or message. I hope he may have been influenced by his own research!”

    Thanks Henry.

    I may be using some of my workplace pension funds (along with some of my savings) to help bridge the gap between when I retire next year (age 55) and when I start drawing my DB pension (possibly age 60).

    Even so, the research I’ve done seems to suggest that delaying the move into lower risk investments could be beneficial?

    As I have the DB, I can afford to take more risk with the DC.

    Hope it works out.

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